A Rough Couple of Weeks

View from the waiting area outside the Carson Valley Vet Hospital.

It was a rough couple of weeks for the Girl (and of course for me was well). She healed quickly after her surgery. Yes, the mass was a soft tissue sarcoma, but it was low grade and the margins were clear. She has a 15-percent chance of recurrence. I’ll take it.

I made the image on the day we returned so her sutures could be removed. I can do it, but the clinic gets pissy about it if I do. [Heh…] Her wounds were healing nicely and we were released to normal activity again.

However, that afternoon she seemed sick. Her symptoms were coughing and gagging and she ate more grass than usual. I was concerned.

She was not better the next day, refused to go walk, didn’t want any food, and seemed really off. So I called the vet and we returned for the urgent-care clinic that evening (at 1600h).

The vet found nothing obviously wrong and gave me a plethora of diagnosis/treatment options. I elected to go with some supportive care, left the Girl there, and returned to pick her up later in the evening.

She seemed better that Friday (a week ago), so I thought we had passed the worst of it. However, over the weekend I noticed she still wasn’t acting normal. Something was just off.

I struggled with the decision to return to the vet for another visit. It was partly cost and partly the uncertainty that anything definitive would be determined. I hate spending money on medical care with a null outcome. (I have a long history of spending money on medical care with no outcome.) So I thought I’d wait until the weekend passed and see if her condition changed.

Monday came and she refused to walk again. We walked to the mailbox and back, then I drove us up to the old orphanage and we walked the site. She was not feeling well. She kept me up most of the night wanting to go out and just feeling miserable. But, early in the morning she vomited up a bone shard (that I had not seen her eat) about the size of a half-dollar coin.

I thought that might be the problem. So I decided to wait until after the 4th of July holiday to see if another vet call was required.

By Wednesday she was her usual self once again — pestering me to go walkies, asking for play, asking for treats, eating normally, and generally being the pain-in-the-ass that I love.

Her wounds are mostly healed. The rough patches of scar tissue receded. Her fur is growing back (what little of it there is), albeit slowly. She is back to telling me what I want, once again, like most of the women in my life.

It was a rough few weeks. It was horribly expensive, in terms of money, time, and energy. But my constant companion is healthy and happy again. Life is good.

NDEP

The Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, NDEP, is housed in this building. We walk past it many days.

On many mornings, we walk past the building that houses Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, among others. The structure is rather striking from the old state school property, where we meet other doggies and chase ground squirrels.

On our way home, particularly on warm days, The Girl puts on quite a show on the grass landscaping outside the building. Our antics brighten a lot of mornings for folks outside for a walk or a smoke. I hear them chuckle and see them smile at our interaction and her crazy love of the cool grass and shade.

This is a good thing. I like this part of the route quite a lot.

Healing Nicely

This is a happy, if somewhat impatient dog. She’s healing nicely, although she still looks a bit Frankenteinish.

A couple of mornings ago I opened the inside door to let in some morning sun. The Girl immediately gravitated toward the warmth. (She was putting some not-so-subtle pressure on me to go on walkies.) The pose demanded an image.

Although she still looks a bit Frankensteinish, her wounds are healing nicely and the sutures will be removed tomorrow. They don’t seem to bother her and she leaves them alone. She’s really very easy to care for, unlike me.

Frankenstein’s Monster

The Girl came through her surgery fine, with the exception that she now looks like Frankenstein’s Monster. I didn’t photograph the hip incision/sutures… they are the worst and will take longest to heal.
Although I haven’t written in quite a while, it isn’t that I haven’t thought about it. I suppose I was in something of a slump, not making photographs and not doing much writing. Travel was hard and there is quite a lot of work at the moment.

In May it was time for The Girl’s annual. I had questions about some lumps and bumps that I felt on/under her skin. As Doc worked through her regular review, he decided to biopsy a couple of her lumps. The one on her left hip was particularly concerning to him.

He put the sample on a slide and checked it under the microscope. He called it a “Round Cell Tumor” and indicated that is is malignant, although the opinion of a pathologist would be required to confirm that diagnosis. So she was scheduled for a bit more than her usual skin treatment. The work was done yesterday.

She was whiny and clingy last night (can’t really blame her) but is back to herself today. We have not played rowdy because she’s on restricted duty until her wounds knit. A pathology report will be provided next week after the laboratory has time to process the tumor. Hopefully, the margins will be clear and she will be fine.

I f*ing hate cancer.

Happy Birthday, Wife

Wife and Pier at Crissy Field Today, Wife would have been 64-years old. She’s been gone for three years and change. Rarely does a day pass when her memory does not arise, often in the context of an event I think she would have like, a sight she would have enjoyed, or a song we shared.

I still miss her and think I always will. As I wander my way back toward Nevada, there are times when I think “Wife would have enjoyed that…” in the context of something I see or hear. The thought occurred to me yesterday when I was driving through Glenwood Canyon on my way to Grand Junction, Colorado. The light played on the rocks in the afternoon fall sun. The way the rocks were illuminated was interesting and we would have shared that sight.

Birthday celebrations are supposed to be happy affairs. I think when I settle in for the evening, I’ll raise a glass of wine to the east and salute Wife, her life, and her love. Happy Birthday, Wife!

Happy Birthday, Nana

The grandmother I knew as “Nana” died a few weeks ago. She was 100-years old. She saw a lot over her years and knew quite a lot. She shared that wisdom freely. She was the sweetest person I ever knew.

Today she would have been 101-years old. I miss her. Happy Birthday, Nana!

Independence Diner

Inside the Independence Diner, which used to be Danny's, which used to be Denny's.
Inside the Independence Diner, which used to be Danny’s, which used to be Denny’s.

Yesterday, the Girl and I were up really early to walk. She had a appointment with her veterinarian to have some lesions removed from her tummy. Because of her light skin, she is susceptible to skin cancer. Moreover, she’s my “sun baby,” and would choose to lie in the sun on her side and soak up that heat.

Because of our current lifestyle, she doesn’t do that anymore. We’re together all the time and often busy or driving. So she doesn’t have the same leisure time to ask to go outdoors and lie in the sun. But, she still has a few lesions popping up. Perhaps this year there will be fewer of them. I can hope.

So, after our walk, we drove back to the hotel so I could shower and gather up a few things. Then we headed for Minden and the vet’s office. I weighed her, signed in, and the staff put me in an examination room. Dr. Ross wanted to talk to me.

He looked her over and told me I could either wait or get a cup of coffee. He didn’t expect the procedure to take long (none of her spots were very big this time), so I left and decided to get a bite of breakfast.

For many years, Danny’s Diner (which was a Denny’s before I moved to Nevada) was a place I visited regularly, but not frequently. Wife and I loved to stop there when we were running errands for a bite. I just loved to spend such times with Wife. But Danny’s finally closed with the downturn in the economy (which hurt Nevada particularly badly) and I thought the facility would remain empty. But on my return to Nevada, I found a new place had opened.

So Thursday morning I drove from the vet’s to Independence Diner. It is really much like it was, but with a new menu and new staff. The staff are all friendly and the give-and-take between them bespeaks a friendly working environment. This is a good thing.

I ordered café con crema y agua, then repeated myself in ingles. I’m still practicing my Spanish daily, learning a bit each day, reinforcing past lessons as well. But, mi mesera no habla español, so we laughed about it and talked about Spanish. I ordered and worked in my bullet journal a bit while waiting for my food.

I chose poorly, I think. The chorizo omelette I ordered was just OK. I’ll have to try again, I suspect. And I will.

I drove back to the vet’s office to retrieve my Girl. (I don’t really think I own her; she’s not property.) I received instructions and walked my poor, groggy baby back to the rig. I lifted her into the backseat, thinking she would be more comfortable there. After trying to be up a bit, she melted into a pool of dog on the seat pan. She didn’t move all the way home.

I carried our stuff to the room and blocked open the door. After wriggling about a bit, I lifted her from the rig and carried her upstairs to her bed (my ratty old blanket). She didn’t move but went to sleep.

By evening she was more like herself. She doesn’t seem to be having much pain, for which I’m thankful. I gave her some food and her meds. Then we walked a little around the hotel and the park just across Stewart Street here in Carson City. We sat in the shade a long time, just taking in the outside time. She wanted to go chase squirrels, but I kept her on lead. She’s not ready to be rowdy and won’t be for a few more days.

Now I think it’s time to get out for a walk. She won’t walk off-lead this morning (and not for a few more days). But we both need exercise and outside air.

I’m thankful for her veterinarian. It was also good to see the little diner at the north end of Minden working again. It was a good day.

Wife’s Memorial

On our way out of town, the Girl and I stopped to visit the place where we dispersed Wife's ashes. Her family keeps a cross and flowers posted here to remember her. It's a beautiful field and I love to stop here and remember her at her best, not at the end.
On our way out of town, the Girl and I stopped to visit the place where we dispersed Wife’s ashes. Her family keeps a cross and flowers posted here to remember her. It’s a beautiful field and I love to stop here and remember her at her best, not at the end.

I love to visit this place, where we dispersed Wife’s ashes. It is across the county road from my old place, where I moved when I was 15-years old, finished high school, helped dad with the farm, and where Wife, I, and our two older children lived while I was working on my master’s degree.

I still believe this is a happy place for Wife’s ashes. It is a place that is meaningful to her, her family, and to me. That makes it right, at least to my mind.

The Old Man and the Girl

My dear old friends JW and Dee did a photoshoot for me. This is one of my favorite images, ever.
My dear old friends JW and Dee did a photoshoot for me. This is one of my favorite images, ever.

The Girl and I approach our fifth anniversary. I remember driving over the hill to be introduced (it is an arranged relationship) and to determine our compatibility. Young Son went along with me, just in case she would accompany us home.

It was the beginning of the most difficult time of my life, but for other reasons. That is documented elsewhere. The important part of the story is that our relationship continues to develop as we know each other better.

It was great fun around the first of the year when old friends, JW and Dee (J.W. Margrave Photography), accepted my request for a photoshoot. I am always the one behind the camera, so it was great experience to be on the other side for a change. JW and Dee are great fun to work with. They are very professional and skilled at what they do. We had fun wandering around the Texas Tech campus on a very cold, gray day.

But it was certainly worth braving the cold. This is one of my favorite images, ever.

Third Anniversary — 2016

An interesting sculpture at the Denver Art Center.
An interesting sculpture at the Denver Art Center.
The complement to the Man sculpture at the Denver Art Center.
The complement to the Man sculpture at the Denver Art Center.

For some reason, the pair of sculptures I saw at the Denver Art Center seem appropriate for this rumination. They remind me of Wife and me.

Three years ago, Wife died. What more can be said about such a watershed event? What can I do to honor her memory than to remember her most days and then set aside a few minutes on her big days to reflect on her life and our shared lives?

I’ll tell you what I can do — I can live. I’m not going to be that other man in the grief group (I went a couple of times and then quit) who was stuck in his loss. He could not get traction to process his grief, to live it, to let it permeate his soul with the shearing pain of that loss, and then to release that energy as his wife would want.

I watched him. I felt his pain, not just my own. I shielded myself from his pain as it was too much to take on the pain of another man’s loss when so close to my own. I thought “He needs help he cannot get here,” as I walked away from that first group session. I thought “He has to get his feet under him, do the work, process his grief, and honor his wife’s memory if he’s going to move forward.”

Then I reflected on my own internal journey, my own internal work. I was much farther down the path of my grief than the other man. No, it was not a race and there is no winner; there is no better man when dealing with this life-changing event. There is just the grief and the work. There is a necessity to do this work or that pain will kill the spirit.

I returned once more to see if the grief group held anything for me. I learned that I was already far down the process of my grief and decided that spending time with my few friends (those that hung with me) would be far better for me than spending witm with the other grievers. So, that’s what I did.

My gut told me to run away… to just get on the bike or in the 4Runner and go walkabout for a while. My aching spirit wanted the outdoors, the open road, and time away from shared places to process what happened. I wanted to be the Ghost Rider (see Neil Peart’s book) and let the clean air and open road purge some of the pain from me.

But, I didn’t. I did the responsible thing and kept after my obligations. I continued my inner work and did what I could for my employer.

That all changed last March. I was released from my engagement. So, I sold the house, rid myself of a bunch of things (still have too much), put the remaining things in storage, and left. One thing I learned is that my gut was right — I should spend time outdoors and on the road. These are healing places for me and I made up for my original decision these last few months by spending time with loved ones here and there across the country.

And, this is how I honor Wife. I spend time with loved ones and on the road.

I sense, though, that this time is ending. My walkabout is coming to a close, or at the very least is going to change. What that will be is not yet clear. It will be, though, when the time is right. My direction is to remain in the moment, for that is all we ever have. I will remember Wife on all our special days, and most others. I’ll review the images of us together, doing things that we enjoyed, our family pictures, and just remembering. I will continue to honor Wife this way. It feels right. It also feels right to leave the pain behind (mostly) and celebrate the happy times we loved.

I dream of her often. I remember her often. I miss her all the time.